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- The Rover Boys at School - 30/38 -
letter from Yale or some other college, requesting him to come on at once if he wants a certain position. That will cause another delay, and maybe Mrs. Stanhope will get sick of him."
"Oh, if only we could do something like that!" cried his elder brother quickly. "I wish I could send him away out West."
"We'll manage it somehow --" put in Tom.
"Sam, what wonderful ideas you have for your years!"
"Oh; I take after my big brothers," answered the youngest Rover modestly.
Late in the evening a telegram was received from Captain Putnam:
"Remain in Ithaca over night, at the American House. Will send word how to get here in the morning."
"The American House!" ejaculated Dick. "That is where old Crabtree is stopping."
"If only we can have some fun with the old chap!" sighed Tom.
The six boys marched to the hotel in a body, told their story, and showed the telegram to the clerk.
"All right," said the clerk. "We've had cadets stop here before. I have a big room on the second floor, with two large beds in it. Will that do?"
"That suits me," said Larry.
"Is Mr. Josiah Crabtree stopping here?" questioned Tom.
"Yes. He has the room next to the one I mentioned -- his is No. 13, and yours will be No. 14."
"All right; thanks," answered Torn dryly, and immediately began to lay plans for playing a joke on the old teacher.
"We don't want to let Mr. Crabtree know we are stopping here," he said to the clerk later on. "He is no longer a teacher at the Hall, and we would rather not meet."
"Shall I put you in another room?"
"Oh, no; only don't tell him we are here."
"I'll remember that, sir."
As soon as the boys had been shown to the big room, Tom turned to his fellows. "I want each of you to chip in ten cents," he said.
"What for?" came in a chorus.
"For the purpose of getting square with old Crabby."
"I don't see the connection," said Larry. "Kindly be a little more definite."
"You'll see, or hear, the connection a little later on," answered Tom. "Quick, shell out and I'll promise you your money's worth, or return the amount with legal interest."
The fifty cents was quickly collected, and, adding ten cents of his own, Tom ran from the hotel. "No fish market open at this time of night, "he said to himself.
"I'll have to try a restaurant," and hurried into the first place which came into sight.
"Have you any crabs?" he asked, of the waiter who came to him.
"Yes, sah; very fine, sah. Want some softshell, sah?"
"I don't care whether they are soft-shell or as hard as rocks. I want live crabs, the most active kind you have in stock."
The waiter stared in amazement, then called the owner of the restaurant.
"You want live crabs?"
"I do -- strong, active, go-ahead crabs, and I want them in a box."
"Is this a joke?"
"It will be -- when the crabs get to work," answered Tom with a wink.
"Oh, I understand," laughed the restaurant keeper. "How many?"
"What are they worth?"
"Good nippers are worth ten cents apiece."
"Give me six, and mind you put them in a strong box for me."
Five minutes later Tom left the restaurant with the live crabs tucked safely away in a shoe box under his overcoat.
FUN AT THE HOTEL
It was no easy matter for Tom to get into the room Josiah Crabtree was occupying, but after trying a good number of keys, fished up here, there, and everywhere, one was at last found that fitted the lock.
Striking a match, Tom entered the room quickly, drew back the sheet of the bed, dumped in the crabs, and then pulled the sheet tip to its original place.
"He's coming!" whispered Sam, who stood guard at the door. "Hide, Tom," and then he ran back to the big room adjoining.
Finding he could not escape, Tom threw the box under the bed and rushed to a closet in the corner. Here he crouched down behind a large trunk left in the place on storage. He had scarcely secreted himself when Josiah Crabtree came in. He had shoved his key in the lock, but had failed to notice that the lock-bolt was already turned back.
"Oh, what a cold night," muttered the ex-school teacher as he lit the gas. "A warm bed will feel fine."
"I reckon it will be warm enough," thought Tom.
As the room was scantily heated, Crabtree lost no time in disrobing. Having donned a long night robe, he turned off the gas, flung the sheets back, and leaped into bed.
Exactly ten seconds of silence followed. Then came a yell calculated to raise the dead.
"Whow! What's this? Oh! What's got me by the legs? Oh, oh! oh! I'm being eaten up alive! Let go there! Oh, dear!"
And with additional yells, Josiah Crabtree leaped straight out of bed, one crab hanging to his left knee, several on his feet, and one, which he had caught hold of clinging to the back of his hand. At once he began to do an Indian war-dance around the apartment, knocking the furniture right and left.
"Let go there! What on earth can they be? Oh, my toe is half off -- I know it is! Let go!" And then he struggled toward the gas jet, but before he could light it Tom had slipped out of the apartment, closing the door behind him. The banging of furniture continued, and then came a crash, as the washstand went over, carrying with it a bowl, a soap tray, and a large, pitcher filled with water. The icy water gushed over Crabtree's feet, making him shiver with the cold, but the crabs were undaunted and only clung the closer.
The noise soon aroused the entire hotel, and the clerk, several bell-boys, and finally the proprietor, rushed to the scene. The door was flung wide open.
"Have you been drinking, sir? How dare you disturb the hotel in this fashion?" demanded the proprietor.
"The crabs! Take them off!" yelled Crabtree, continuing to dance around.
"Crabs? What made you bring crabs up here?"
"I - I -- oh, my toes! Take them off!" shrieked Josiah Crabtree, and kicked out right and left. One of the crabs was flung off, to land in the hotel proprietor's face and to catch the man by the nose.
"My nose! He will bite it off!" cried the hotel man. "Kill the thing, Gillett -- smash it with a-a-anything!"
And Gillett, the clerk, tried to do so, while the hotel man and Crabtree continued to dance around in the wildest kind of fury. Safe in their own room, the boys laughed until they cried. All had gone to bed, and Tom lost no time in getting under the covers.
"Somebody has played a trick," began Crabtree when an extra nip on his knee cut hint short. "Oh, my, I shall die!" he moaned. "I know I shall die!"
By this time the proprietor of the hotel had freed himself from the crab that had nipped him on the nose. "You won't die, but you'll get out of this hotel," he snarled. "Throw the crabs out of the window," he continued to his employees, and after a good deal of trouble one crab after another was hurled forth, the window being kept open in the meantime and the icy draught causing Crabtree to shiver as with the ague. As there seemed no help for it the ex-teacher began to dress again with all possible speed.
"If I find out who did this I'll -- I'll kill him," moaned Josiah
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